I am considering a advanced stick welding class. What I am not sure
about it, if I learn something good, and then do not use it for a few
years, will I fully forget the skills that I would learn? What about
those of you who learned some welding stuff but then did not use for a
while, have you lost those skills completely or can relearn almost
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It's JUST like riding a bicycle. BUT, how well do you learn to ride it the
first time? There's learning to ride it, learning to ride it pretty good,
then there's learning how to do tricks, then learning to do the half tube
and the crazy things people do with bikes today.
There's lots of little things you learn over the course of time in welding,
and those little things are the important things to remember. The stuff
that goes past just "burning rods" and understanding what you are doing.
Yes, your hand does get a little unsteady from age or disuse, but at least
you know how to do it and where to start and what to look out for. It comes
back quickly, some times surprisingly. But in that way, it's different from
bikes because when you get older, you don't bounce so good, and screwing up
on a weld isn't like screwing up on a bike. I've had quite a pause in my
welding continuum, and I picked it right back up. You know how to set up,
how to find the amp ranges, what the rod angles are for the position of the
weld, etc, etc, etc. You never forget that.
Even if you don't take the actual welding hand eye coordination to the next
level, your exposure to it will give you a lot of knowledge about things
............. like if you go to buy a used trailer, and want to look and
see how it was made .......... or other weldments. You won't get sold some
shoddy bill of goods like you might otherwise. And later in life, it might
actually get you the supervisor position by knowing how it's supposed to be
Ernie's advice is spot on.
What does the advanced class cover?
I typically stick weld a small job every few months and rarely have to
grind out a bad initial bead. These are mild steel, 1/4" to 1/2"
thick, with DC 7018. Other processes that I use less often require
some practice runs to get back to the level I once reached in class. I
try to avoid designs which would exceed that level, in my case most
out-of-position welds, or make a test piece and break it.
This means a whole lot of lifting and repositioning on a large welded
tubing structure, then loading every joint to several times the design
service load when it's done.
If I did an exercise once, like filling in a 3/4" hole in auto
sheetmetal with MIG, it will all come back many years later although
maybe not on the first attempt. I might run through those exercises on
scrap the next time I use that process.
I say take the class. You will learn what you can or can't reliably do
with a little practice and be able to plan future jobs accordingly.
For example I know that I can TIG non-critical aluminum control panels
on robots but I ask a better weldor to do the highly stressed
From my experience: I was welding once or twice a week, took a course at a
local trade school to get the basics. Have a large buzz box. Was able to do
fairly well. Moved to Arizona, and now some 30 years later am trying to get
to where I can at least stick things together. First thing I noticed is now
I wear bi-focals, and had a cataract in my right eye. Could not see the
puddle for anything. Bought a gold flashed filter and a magnifying lens, no
help. But I could still weld with a small wire feed. No way with stick. Had
the cataract fixed and am about to try again. Still have the giant WW II
surplus 400 pound buzz box, just need some new rod and some scrap to
practice on. About a month after the cataract surgery I added some 1"X1"
tubing between the angle iron on the ramps from my car trailer to keep the
tires from hanging up. Could see better but was having a heck of a time with
the thick angle and thin tubing. Started with my mig, but it's a light duty
rig and kept shutting down from overheating. So I finished it with rod. No
way could I make it look good. By time I got the right settings and found
some decent rod I was finished. So far it's held up, but it looks like it
would if I never welded in my life. I've bumbled through some other repairs
but I'm miles from where I was. If I can find the time to get some serious
practice in I'll most likely pick it up again.
I have the same problem with the old eyes - can't see without my
bifocals. I talked to my doctor and he suggested buying a pair of
cheap single focus glasses that are focused for the distance you weld
at. It makes a world of difference. I CAN see now .... at least `2
inches from my nose :-) I also tried the magnifying lens in the helmet
but the cheap glasses work better.
(correct Address is bpaige125atgmaildotcom)
For welding now when I want to see it clearly, I put on my contacts, and
then use 2.25 diopter cheap reading glasses with a big lens. I can't do
diddly with bifocals, although an auto hood with bifocals helps immensely.
You can hold your head steady and keep your focal point stationary.
I wear progressive bifocals and had the same issues trying to weld. To see
at the correct distance for welding, I had to look though the bottom of the
glasses, but I couldn't position the hood to allow me to do that. I bought
some single focus safety glasses and they worked well for welding, but
didn't work out in general because everything beyond a few feet was so
distorted I couldn't walk around safely with the glasses on.
The magnifying lens in the hood is what worked out best for me. It's the
correct strength to convert my distance prescription to my reading
prescription. So I wear my normal bifocals for welding, but the magnifying
lens in the hood just allows me to look straight out the glasses (using the
distance prescription in the glasses) and end up with a result which is the
same as my reading superscription.
So what the magnifying lens does for me is allow me to use my bifocals
(which also adjust for a astigmatism), but lets me look straight out to see
close up instead of having to look out the bottom of the glasses. And for
all other work without the helmet, I'm just using my normal bifocals.
Being able to see what you are doing is everything with welding. If you
can't find a solution that lets you see the weld clearly, you won't be able
to produce a good weld. The few people I've met in class that were having
problems learning to weld, were always the people who had eyesight problems
and hadn't found a solution with their glasses that would allow them to see
the weld. When they finally found a helmet and glasses or whatever was
needed that would let them see the weld pool, their welding instantly
Well, I'm kinda in that position because I've taken 3 stick welding
classes, but yet, the odds of me actually using that skill much in the next
10 years is probably minimial. So I might end up losing much of the skill
However, what I'm sure of, is that if I try to do any stick welding in the
future, no matter how much skill I might have lost, I will be able to pick
up the skill again faster, and any welding I do will be better, than if I
had not taken the classes.
So though I'm sure I will get rusty if I don't continue to practice, I'm
also sure I won't loose everything I learned and that it will benefit me
with any welding I do in the future.
The classes I took were really just enough to get a start on the process.
To really develop the skill, I think you need to get a job and weld full
time for a few years. It's not something you can really master in a few
classes, but they will give you a good understanding of what there is to
master and enough skill to allow you to try just about anything with some
level of confidence that you understand what you are dealing with.
I work with computers for a living so I have no use for welding in my work
(unless my life takes a turn and I end up somewhere I can do some more
welding). It's only hobby stuff I could use it on. I only got my first
welding machine a few months ago but now I down a MIG machine and the small
A/C only tombstone stick welder. The only stick welding I've done at home
was one small rod just to make sure the new stick machine was working
correctly (I bought it as an open box special at home depot and only got it
because the price was too good to walk away from). At the moment, I've got
no projects I need to use it for and any welding I do is more likely to be
done with the MIG machine so it could be years before I actually use it.
Yeah, you seem to spend a lot of time buying and fixing big things so
there's lots of opportunity to weld stuff. I've not gotten into any
activities like that yet.
Lots of stuff. There's all the background classroom stuff about the
processes and welders and electricity and different types of sticks and a
bit of metallurgy and safety. But mostly, what there is to be gained is
simply practice welding in all positions and joints and rods. Learning how
to set the current, and how to prep a joint and how many passes to use and
learning different weave patterns etc. Every joint configuration, material
size, position, and rod type is a whole new learning process.
It's not like learning to ride one bicycle as much as it's like learning
100 different tricks on the bike. Each one has to be practiced and
mastered. After three classes, I only become an OK welder for 10 of the
100 tricks. :)
The school also never got into fabrication issues like distortion and
setup. (well we talked about it but never had any projects to deal with
it). All the work in the school I want to was simply learning to run beads
on test coupons in all positions and configurations.
I went to a state school in Lafayette, Louisiana. I was working 7 days on,
seven days off on an offshore platform. I'd weld on the job, then 7 days on
shore. I did that for a year. In all that time, there was 1 % of class
time. Book time. The instructor was a 300# ex Navy bubba who looked like
he couldn't get down on the floor to do a critical weld. Then he would put
on a hood, and it looked like Rembrandt strokes. Like the stuff you see in
Lincoln Welding books.
His main thing was "just go out there and weld". I burned a ton of rod.
And every once in a while when I got stuck or plateaued, he'd come in and
take me to another level. He got guys all day that had to be there, sent
from State Rehab. And then those who wanted to pick up a garage hobby
skill. And then there were those of use who were in the trade. His time
was spread thin.
Almost everything was learned by doing. And what he taught, he taught by
example and exhibit. It was a buffet. Take what you want, and if you leave
hungry, shame on you.
Learning about welding is easy. Being able to do it is different. Being
teachable is a whole nuther category.
Yes, it is like riding a bike to me. But, also, when I ride a bike after a
while, it takes a while to get to that confidence level. Particularly when
welding anything critical. Lots of time, even on regular stuff, I will take
some test pieces of the same materials, and do a couple of sticks before
doing the real weld, just to make sure I'm up to speed, and the machine is
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